They were affectionately dubbed the 'Cajun Navy' after citizen-saviors rescued hundreds during Louisiana's devastating flooding, but a recent proposal could add new licensing requirements.
Jonathan Perry, a Republican state senator, is working on legislation that could require training, certificates and a permit fee for citizen-rescuers to bypass law enforcement into devastated areas, according to a report from WWL-TV.
Perry represents Senate District 26, comprised of Vermilion Parish and portions of Acadia, Lafayette and St. Landry parishes. He took to Facebook Tuesday evening to explain the logistics of his proposed legislation, which he said is not to limit volunteer rescuers, but rather to empower them.
"The intent of what I want to do is to completely unregulate it, to where our volunteers are not stopped from going out," he said in the Facebook video.
"It is basically to remove any restrictions and allow people to get to our citizens quicker."
Perry said in the video his goal was to clear up "misinformation" after an initial Lafayette radio interview where he discussed the subject.
“At the end of the day, there are going to be two things that are going to be the hurdle when you approach it from the state’s standpoint,” said Perry in the interview, per WWL-TV. “Liability is going to be number one for them. They don’t want the liability of someone going out to rescue someone and then not being able to find them (the rescuers) and, secondly, there’s a cost.”
Some who took part in the rescue parties have spoken out against the proposal, including Dustin Clouatre of St. Amant.
"How can you regulate people helping people? That doesn't make sense to me," said Clouatre to WWL-TV.
In Livingston Parish, officials initially prevented private citizens from heading into the waters to render aid, but as calls from stranded residents mounted, they relented.
They came in bateaux, canoes, crawfish skiffs and dual-engine fishing craft, launching off t…
"Then it was like, do you have vests? Do you have insurance? Are you truly capable of doing this?" Parish President Layton Ricks said. "And as it turned out, we couldn't have done it without those guys. They were a tremendous asset for our people."
For the full WWL-TV report, click here.